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BTAA GIS Conference 2023 Wrap-Up Report

Issued: December 21, 2023


Established in 2020, the BTAA GIS Conference is a virtual event organized by geospatial information users and educators in Big Ten institutions to present their work, exchange information, and develop potential collaborations. It is open to all participants, including those outside the BTAA network. 

The 4th annual conference was held on November 8th, 2023. The conference spanned the hours of 9:00 AM to 4:10 PM Central Standard Time. The schedule included: * Short Introduction (5 minutes) * Keynote (1 hour) * Two Lightning Talks sessions (50 minutes each) * Three Presentation Sessions (1 hour each)

Conference Statistics 2023

  • Number of registrations: 212
  • Number of unique attendees: 132
  • Number of presenters: 21
  • Max Concurrent Views: 76

Organization type by attendee:

  • university: 177
  • government: 19
  • private/nonprofit: 12
  • other: 4

  • Universities represented: nearly 40

Keynote Speech

Our keynote speaker was Katie McDonough, who called in from the Alan Turing Institute in London, UK. She presented “Reading Maps: Making, Searching, and Interpreting Text on Maps.“ The BTAA-GIN provided a $1000 honorarium, which was the only expense incurred by the conference outside of in-kind staff time.

BTAA GIS Conference 2023 Planning Group

Conference team

BTAA-GIN Planning Group

  • Karen Majewicz (Chair), Geospatial Project Manager, University of Minnesota
  • Caroline Kayko, Map and Geospatial Data Librarian, University of Michigan
  • Laura Kane McElfresh, Cartographic Metadata Librarian, University of Minnesota
  • Josh Sadvari, Geospatial Information Librarian, Ohio State University
  • Nicole Scholtz, Librarian for Geospatial and Numeric Data, University of Michigan
  • Jay Bowen, GIS Specialist, University of Iowa
  • Sue Oldenburg, GIS Specialist, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
  • Kathleen Weessies, Head, Map Library, Michigan State University

BTAA staff

  • Susanne Garrison, Community Coordinator
  • Tim Newcomb, Operations Coordinator

The BTAA-GIN Conference Planning Group met 7 times between July and November. We also had three tech rehearsals with the BTAA IT team. The planning group divided up roles and responsibilities by identifying task leads, including communicating with the keynote speaker, managing the website pages, issuing proposals, putting the conference agenda together, building the map gallery, coordinating Zoom, and editing the videos.

We used a planning spreadsheet to keep track of our work: 2023 BTAA GIS Conference Planning

Key Takeaways (2023)


Reach of the conference continues beyond the day-of event via YouTube videos, viewed increasingly over time.

The BTAA IT partners were wonderful and went above and beyond to help us: three tech rehearsals and staying online the whole time to manage the Zoom.

The technical aspect of the conference ran very smoothly. Our new system of having a facilitator and slide-runner made transitions easier and faster.

Served as an augmentation to local GIS Days

The new Map Gallery is easy to use and links to all years.

The videos were processed very quickly, because of a new role for a dedicated video person.


We needed at least three people for each session and did not have enough volunteers to fill each slot

The day of the event was somewhat tiring for the facilitators and moderators

We did not feel empowered to create things like branded swag or gifts

Planned changes for next year

Considering moving conference to spring: there are fewer conflicting events and this would give us a longer lead-up time to promote and coordinate

Simplify communications with more batch emails and possibly implementing tools like a Contact Relations Database and/or an email marketing platform.

Present more information and highlights about the BTAA-GIN and the Geoportal in the welcoming remarks